June 2, “Do you love me?”

John 21:15-19

 

After Jesus had revealed himself to his disciples and eaten breakfast with them,
he said to Simon Peter,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
He then said to Simon Peter a second time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
He said to him the third time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time,
“Do you love me?” and he said to him,
“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger,
you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted;
but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands,
and someone else will dress you
and lead you where you do not want to go.”
He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God.
And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”


 

Usually when my wife comes up to me and asks “Do you love me?” she wants something from me.  It’s not a bad thing.  I rather enjoy how she asks that question.  I think though if she asked me do you love me three times in a row responding with a cryptic command I’d be scratching my head wondering if she’s lost it.  That could be why I am losing my hair.

Throughout the Gospels Jesus uses shepherd terminology in describing Himself and His followers.  He uses terminology like this to describe the end times when he speaks of separating the sheep from the goats.  He speaks about the good shepherd who leaves his flock to find the lost sheep.  We also see the shepherd as one of His flock as well as Jesus is referred to as the “Lamb of God”.  So it’s no surprise to see Jesus use the shepherd metaphor one last time.

Peter on the other hand had the distinction of being the weak willed when the going got tough the tough would “peter” out.  Remember the walking on water incident?  (I still haven’t mastered that.)  His moment of pride when Jesus calls him Satan.  Or his famous denial of Jesus (I’d probably do that to if someone healed my mother-in-law.)  But no matter what Peter did or didn’t do, we see some pretty clear themes in the Gospels with him.

Peter is mentioned more than all the rest of the Apostles combined.  He is always named first.  He was the only one to receive the ‘keys’.  Finally he was the only one to have his name changed.  As you recall, anytime anyone in the Bible had their name changed, God gave them a new mission in their life and they underwent a transformation.  Abram becomes Abraham, Jacob becomes Israel, Saul becomes Paul.  Peter is of course no exception.  And while yes, Peter did deny Jesus three times, there is a moment of acknowledgement when Jesus looks back to Peter and dare I say forgave him then and there.  Of course with the threefold denial, we have a threefold commission as we read today.  Peter is to become the new shepherd.

Today’s reading should be a reminder to us all that no matter what we have done in the past, no matter how bad it was, God can take that and make something good of it and of you so long as we let Him work through us.  After all, when Jesus questioned Peter he used a present tense in the questions.  Not a past, not a future, a present.  “Peter do you love me” [now]?   God wants to work through us now;  where we are at in our lives now!

Lastly there is a moment of prophecy at the end of today’s reading.  Jesus tells Peter,

“… Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger,
you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted;
but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands,
and someone else will dress you
and lead you where you do not want to go.”
He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God.
And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”

We know from history that Peter was crucified upside down in Rome around 65 AD.  No doubt with his arms stretched out.  He was dressed by wearing the cross.  Lead to the place of crucifixion presumably.  No doubt following Christ.

Thought for the day:  God can do anything through anyone, even the worst of sinners, if you let Him.  We must be willing to follow God’s will for us even if it’s not what we want for ourselves.

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